Our 2018 roster review series continues today with an in-depth look at Romeo Okwara’s performance.
Outlook before 2018:
Okwara was awarded off of waivers to the Lions after training camp cuts left them thin as paper along the defensive line. After getting cut by the New York Giants, expectations were low , but there was hope that he could do something with an expanded role given the Lions’ need for pass rushing help.
Actual role in 2018:
2018 Stats: 15 games (14 starts), 39 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass defended
PFF Grade: 64.0
With no clear-cut expectations for Okwara, it’s safe to say he exceeded expectations in 2018. Okwara found a way to disrupt the backfield during crunch time on a regular basis, putting up 7.5 sacks and 14 QB hits along the way. For someone who came in after training camp to post 14 starts with those kinds of number is surely surpassing expectations... right?
The numbers don’t tell the whole story, though. As our very own Mansur Shaheen highlights in his film breakdown.
Okwara severely lacked consistency in his backfield intrusion and a number of his highlights came from Devon Kennard pushing the pocket right into Okwara’s lap. As Shaheen explains, Okwara’s lack of pass-rushing moves, power, and technique are all big causes for concern regarding his future.
As it stands right now, Okwara’s 2018 numbers are more a testament to Matt Patricia’s ability to put players in positions to succeed than to Okwara’s abilities.
Outlook for 2019:
Contract Status: Restricted free agent
As a restricted free agent, it’ll be up to the Lions to decide whether Okwara will be back. While there’s a growing group at Pride of Detroit recognizing that Okwara isn’t as great as his 2018 numbers suggest, it seemed like Bob Quinn wasn’t part of that group as he hinted on multiple occasions that Okwara could be a part of the Lions’ future plans.
Bob Quinn calls Romeo Okwara and Damon Harrison two of his most productive guys on defense.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) January 4, 2019
It’ll be interesting to see how things play out between the Lions and Okwara, but in a pass rushing free agency class that is guaranteed to command significant money, the Lions must be careful not to overpay Okwara and dig themselves into a situation that will haunt them later.